Food + Recipes

Licorice: More than Just a Candy, It’s the Unexpected Flavor Danes Love

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By Terry Baynes

Licorice ice cream, licorice jam, licorice cake, licorice potato chips, licorice ketchup.

The Danes have long been crazy about licorice. But their obsession has lately reached new heights, with the licorice flavor making its way into just about everything edible. There’s even a licorice food tour in Copenhagen.

Denmark’s love affair with the “sweet root” used to center on licorice candy. Kids, shopping for their weekend candy in the local mix-it-yourself candy shop, would make a beeline for the long black laces, hard licorice coins and chewy “salt bombs.”

But licorice has transcended its candy origins. It has become a foodie favorite, spicing up dishes in gourmet restaurants and home kitchens. The shift coincided with the rise of New Nordic cuisine, which experiments with traditional foods and flavors in new ways.

Another major driver was the young Dane Johan Bülow, from the small island Bornholm, who believed that the potential of the mighty licorice root wasn’t limited to sweets but should be explored in meats and savory dishes, baked goods and beer. In 2007 at the age of 23, Bülow launched the company Lakrids (licorice, in Danish), which has since become a licorice empire, selling a wide array of high-end licorice delights around the world.

Bülow’s philosophy caught on. On a walk through Copenhagen’s trendy food market, Torvehallerne, licorice abounds. One local company, Copenhagen Food Tours, offers a special one-and-a-half hour tour dedicated to the flavor.

The sensory journey starts off in Torvehallerne with a twig of licorice root to gnaw on. It quickly takes a sweet turn with a licorice meringue from the pastry shop, Sweet Valentine. Then a brief walk to hard candy-maker Sømods Bolcher whose strong, almost medicinal, licorice lozenge instantly clears the sinuses.

That’s followed by fresh-churned licorice ice cream from Is à Bella, a dark licorice beer from the Bøgedal brewery, licorice teas from Tante T and licorice-flavored flødeboller (chocolate-coated marshmallow creams) from the celebrated chocolatier, Summerbird.